Empanaditas and Pastelitos add variety and Dominican flavor to your hors d'oeuvres platter.
A party’s not a party without a picadera – I may have that printed on a t-shirt, seriously -- especially not without Empanaditas and Pastelitos (Savory Turnovers).
My experience with picadera in the DR is that you have to be pretty forceful to get any. If it’s a table laid out with food, you want to elbow your way in there, because, don’t be fooled, it’s not food that’s going to linger around all night. It’s a one-time deal and like runners at the start –line, it’s a mad dash once the party giver has given the signal that the eating may begin. It may even represent the end of the party, because once the food is gone, what’s the point in hanging around? Get in while the getting is good. And then get out.
There is low-budget picadera and high-budget picadera. Either will definitely include Dominican Empanadas or Pastelitos. Crackers and cheese on the low-end, with huge wedges of salami. High-budget picadera I have less experience with, but we went to a lavish wedding once where the buffet was tantalizing (shrimp, calamari, albondigas….) and yet not a chair to be found.
Ingenious tactic, no?
I’m sure less food was consumed because of it, and I have never forgotten the pincho de pollo (brochette) that was left uneaten because who can eat a pincho de pollo standing up with your plate in your hands? In a manner befitting an elegant wedding, that is.
About our recipe
What's the difference between Dominican Pastelitos and Empanaditas? As with many other things, we Dominicans do not seem to agree. Aunt Clara's theory is that Dominican Pastelitos are round, while Dominican Empanadas are half-moon shaped, but not everyone agrees. It could be a regional issue as an informal survey among our readers seems to suggest.
And if we leave aside the question of shape, this recipe is very flexible, and we give you several options for fillings (chicken, pork, beef, cheese, or vegetables). Whichever you choose, it's sure to be a box office success.
Jill, a member of our original team (where we knew her as Aunt Jane), and contributor to our book, is Canadian, mom to two Canadian-Dominican boys and resided in the Dominican Republic for several years.
Empanaditas / Pastelitos Recipe (Dominican Savory Turnovers)
For the vegan filling
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 bell pepper , diced
- 1 large tomato , seeded and diced
- ½ cup of sweet corn , boiled (1 small can)
- ½ cup of green peas , boiled (1 small can)
- 1 small carrot , boiled, peeled and diced
- 1 small potato , boiled, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon of salt , or to taste
- 1 small red onion , diced
- 1 clove of garlic , crushed
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 tablespoon of hot sauce , or to taste
For the chicken filling
- 1 lb [0.45 kg] of chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 2 sprigs of cilantro chopped finely
- ½ cup of tomato sauce
- 1 small red onion , chopped
- 1 clove of garlic , crushed
- 1 green pepper , diced
- 2 teaspoons of salt , or to taste
- ½ teaspoon of pepper , or to taste
- 1 teaspoon of orégano
For the cheese filling
- 1/2 lb of Gouda cheese , grated coarsely
For the dough
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour , plus extra for working the dough
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- ½ teaspoon of baking powder
- 3 tablespoons of cold water
- 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (canola, corn or soy) for adding to the dough
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 egg white (to seal edges)
- 2 cups of vegetable oil (canola, corn or soy) for frying
How to make the vegetable filling
- Heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook and stir until the onions become translucent. Stir in bell pepper, tomato, peas, carrot, potato and corn. Cover and simmer over low heat until the pepper is cooked (3-5 mins).
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the hot sauce.
- Cool to room temperature and reserve.
How to make the chicken filling
- Boil the chicken in two cups of water, adding a teaspoon of salt, pepper, and a pinch of oregano to the water.
- When the chicken is tender remove from the fire and cool to room temperature.
- Shred the chicken very finely.
- In a skillet heat oil over low heat, add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook and stir until onions become translucent.
- Add coriander and tomato sauce and mix in. Mix in chicken and simmer over very low heat until all the liquid has evaporated.
- Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
How to make the dough
- Mix baking baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour, add water and oil, and mix well.
- Mix everything with your hands on a lightly-floured surface until everything is well mixed, don't knead the dough (add some flour to the dough is it is too sticky, a bit of water if it is too dry).
- Let dough rest for ten minutes covered in plastic film.
- On a lightly-floured surface roll out the dough.
How to make make empanadas:
- Cut out circles 4" [10 cm] in diameter. Paint the inside with egg white, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of each circle, double over in a semi-circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
How to make make pastelitos:
- Cut out circles of about 2.5" [6.5 cm] in diameter. Paint the inside with egg white, place a tablespoon of the chicken filling in the center of each circle, cover with another circle and seal the border pressing it with a fork.
How to fry the pastelitos
- Heat oil over medium heat in a 1 qt [1lt] pot. Deep fry the pasties heat until they are golden brown on each side. Rest on a paper towel to drain excess oil before serving.